For Immediate Release: New York City Court Ranked #1 Worst “Judicial Hellhole” in USA

Contact: Phoebe Stonbely


New York City Court Ranked #1 Worst “Judicial Hellhole” in USA

Bias, Political Profiteering Plague “Systematically Unfair” Court 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Albany, NY (December 16, 2014) – The 2014-15 edition of the American Tort Reform Foundation’s “Judicial Hellholes” report, released today, identifies the New York City Asbestos Litigation court (NYCAL) as the most unfair court in the nation. Since 2002, the Judicial Hellholes report has identified jurisdictions around the country where judges systematically apply court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner. While NYCAL has been identified in the past as a “Judicial Hellhole,” new developments have pushed the court to the #1 spot and into the national spotlight.

American Tort Reform Association president Tiger Joyce explained the reason for the New York court’s dubious distinction, “Troubling developments in NYCAL in 2014 have served to make an already plaintiff-friendly court inarguably so. At the behest of a powerful New York-based plaintiffs’ law firm, which happens to pay the moonlighting speaker of the state Assembly $750,000 a year, NYCAL’s managing judge revived long suspended procedures that effectively coerce asbestos defendants into settling cases. And when defendants insist on a trial and lose, they face verdicts that are much higher than elsewhere around the country.”

The report notes that the manager of the asbestos docket, Judge Sherry Klein Heitler, has adopted a series of unjust and deleterious procedures. She has reintroduced punitive damages in asbestos cases in contradiction to a near 20-year old agreement. She also allowed plaintiffs’ lawyers to circumvent a requirement that they disclose claims they have filed or plan to file with trusts established by bankrupted defendants. The report also found that NYCAL judges:

–          Allow plaintiffs’ lawyers to try multiple, dissimilar cases together (consolidation)
–          Impose liability on one company for the products of another
–          Routinely hold defendants jointly liable for a plaintiff’s entire damages award despite a New York law that provides for allocation of liability in proportion to fault

The report concludes that as a result of such practices, multimillion-dollar awards in asbestos cases tried in New York City have become commonplace. Further, the report notes that the Speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, is also on the payroll of one of the law firms profiting from the NYCAL imbalance, and has aggressively opposed efforts to reform the state’s tort laws.

Tom Stebbins, Executive Director of the Albany-based Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York underscored the seriousness of the situation in the NYCAL. “For years, we’ve seen all manner of legal shenanigans in the asbestos court, including aggressive efforts by personal injury asbestos firms to influence the court’s decision making. They have precipitated a lawsuit feeding frenzy, bankrupting American companies and siphoning millions of dollars from future victims. It’s no surprise the court was named the worst ‘Judicial Hellhole’ in the nation”

The report notes that the state’s high court has an opportunity to move the court in the right direction. “With the speaker strangling all meaningful legislative tort reforms in the cradle, mitigation of NYCAL injustices will have to come from the state’s high court. And the Court of Appeals is now considering cases involving both the unfair consolidation of asbestos cases and third-party liability, so it can and should rein in NYCAL’s plainly plaintiff-favoring bias,” Joyce urged.

He noted the New York Court of Appeals’ 2014 rejection of medical monitoring claims in the absence of manifest injury, a decision cited among the report’s “Points of Light,” as a reason to hope it will also move to restore some balance in NYCAL courtrooms.

The full 2014-15 Judicial Hellholes report can be found here:

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The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit association of businesses, professionals, healthcare providers, membership organizations, taxpayers, and concerned citizens committed to changing New York’s legal system to help create jobs and energize our economy.


LRANY Video Series: Most Ridiculous Lawsuit of the Month: Woman Sues Owners of Dog Killed by Her Dogs

This week, Phoebe Stonbely brings you the most ridiculous lawsuit for the month of December. A Texas woman filed a lawsuit for $1 million against the owners of a dog that was killed by her dogs.

This is a glaring example of just how sue happy our nation is.



Photos: Annual Meeting and Scaffold Law Reform Summit

On November 19th, LRANY hosted our first Annual Meeting and Key Issues Summit focused on Scaffold Law reform. The day included an overview of recent Court of Appeals rulings, a luncheon, keynote address by singer Collette McLafferty, and panel discussions on the legal, insurance, and political dimensions of the Scaffold Law.

Thanks to all who attended and our generous sponsors! We hope to see you all next year.

Photos can be found here:


Frivolous Lawsuit Leaves Singer Numb, Traumatized, But Determined to Change the System


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Albany, NY (November 20, 2014)- Earlier this year, Collette McLafferty’s life was turned upside down.

Without warning, the successful Manhattan singer and songwriter was served with a $10 million lawsuit by a P!nk cover band co-creator  and personal injury lawyer Charles Bonfonte. The lawsuit alleges that McLafferty and her fellow bandmates’ lack of sex appeal and talent hurt his image, thus entitling him to millions in damages.

McLafferty said the absurd and offensive lawsuit left her “numb” and “traumatized.” But she refuses to sit quietly on the sidelines. “I would say I’m in the ‘anger phase’ right now,” she said in a recent interview on YNN Albany’s Capital Tonight program. 

Working with the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY), she has vowed to use her new-found publicity to champion legal reforms to prevent lawsuit abuse. On November 19th, she traveled to Albany to speak as the keynote at the organization’s annual lawsuit reform summit, where advocates unveiled a new proposal to curb abusive lawsuits and help victims of lawsuit abuse get justice.

The proposal, informally dubbed “Collette’s Law,” will take aim at frivolous lawsuits by allowing courts to require those who file meritless actions to pay the other party’s legal costs, increasing sanctions for plaintiffs who file frivolous lawsuits, and broadening the definition of conduct which may be considered frivolous. Tom Stebbins, Executive Director of LRANY said “Too often we see the legal system misused for personal gain or harassment. We need real, common-sense lawsuit reforms to end lawsuit abuse here in New York once and for all.” 

“Nobody should have to go through what I’ve been through. This is the first step in the fight for justice for lawsuit abuse victims,” said McLafferty. 

See Collette tell her story here


LRANY Video Series: Ridiculous Lawsuit of the Month October 2014 – Red Bull Wings Lawsuit Settled

This week, Phoebe Stonbely will discuss the recent settlement from Red Bull following a lawsuit claiming false advertising for the energy drinks slogan that “Red Bull gives you wings”.

This ridiculous lawsuit was settled by Red Bull to avoid the cost and distraction of litigation – for $13.5 MILLION DOLLARS

Now experts now predict that the high dollar settlement from Red Bull could start a tidal wave of more false advertising lawsuits looking for a similar big pay-day.



LRANY Video Series: The Cultural Impact of Lawsuits

This week on the LRANY Video Series, Tom Stebbins brings you a video on the cultural impact of lawsuits in New York.

We often touch on the economic impact that lawsuits have on our state but it starts with the cultural changes impacted by lawsuits. Lawsuits create a sue-happy mentality and fear of lawsuits continuously enacts changes in business practices, product development and even in our schools.



LRANY Video Series: Most Ridiculous Lawsuit of the Month, September: Firefighter Sues Staten Island Homeowner

This week for the LRANY Video Series, Phoebe Stonbely Brings you the Most Ridiculous Lawsuit for the month of September.  A Staten Island home owner was relieved after what could have been a devastating fire when he accidentally placed paint cans too close to his furnace, only caused some smoke and minor charring.  However three years later, just week before the statute of limitations would expire, he received notice that he was being sued for injuries by one of the firefighters who had responded that day.



LRANY Video Series: Ridiculous Lawsuit of the Month, August 2014 – “Hell on Wheels” Strikes Again

This week, LRANY’s Phoebe Stonbely brings you the Most Ridiculous Lawsuit of the Month for August of 2014: “Hell on Wheels” Strikes Again.

Zoltan Hersch, a double amputee from Brooklyn was dubbed ‘hell on wheels’ by the New York Post after filing 87 federal lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2011. He returned this month to continue his suing spree, with a lawsuit against a New York City Ralph Lauren.



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: ADA Lawsuits, They’re Real and They’re Not Spectacular

(Albany, NY) – The iconic restaurant featured in many Seinfeld episodes was recently sued for over $30,000 under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Today, the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York is warning that this case is just the beginning of a flood of ADA litigation targeting New York businesses, similar to the billion-dollar ADA lawsuit industry currently bilking thousands of California businesses.

“This drive-by serial litigation that we see with ADA lawsuit abuse is despicable, often forcing small businesses to close their doors,” said Tom Stebbins, Executive Director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.  Stebbins cited a recent case in Brooklyn where a personal injury lawyer sued a restaurant for a non-compliant bathroom, even though the restaurant had no bathroom at all. The lawyer could not even produce his client – evidence, says Stebbins, that these lawsuits are designed to benefit trial lawyers, not the person with a disability.

Read Full Release


LRANY Video Series: Most Ridiculous Lawsuit of the Month- Snoozing Fan Sues Yankees for $10M

This week, to continue LRANY’s Video Series, Phoebe Stonbely brings you the Most Ridiculous Lawsuit of July.  Andrew Rector was at a Yankees/Red Socks game at Yankees Stadium when he drifted off and took a nap.  He caught the attention of ESPN correspondents who made some comments.  This clip quickly made its way to the web and went viral.  In response, Rector filed a lawsuit for $10M against the MLB, ESPN and it’s announcers and Yankee Stadium.